Whenever I go on holiday with my parents, I often watch and wait for that inevitable moment when my Dad says those famous words “We should buy a house here!” Swiftly followed by my mum’s words “Here he goes again!” Is this a familiar scenario in your home? Now, it’s not always a bad idea! The places we visit are beautiful and I can totally understand my Dad’s excitement, but there are many more things to consider than just how lovely a place is.

My favourite memory was seeing a new property in the Algarve region of Portugal on a piece of paper! Yes, it wasn’t built yet! With brand-new properties, you can either get them off plan (before they are built) or buy one that has already been constructed. The off plan idea used to be really attractive because by the time the property was built, the value increased so you had already made some money! But then thousands of new homes were never completed, for example in Bulgaria and Spain, and many people lost a lot of money in the process. According to AIPP (Association of International Property Professionals) off plan is still thriving (in parts of Turkey), especially at the higher end of the market, where a custom-built property is required. The key thing is whether the developer is able to deliver what he promises – and what guarantees you might have if he doesn’t.

Then there are those developments you see on the drive from the airport to your resort full of newly built but unsold properties, which look absolutely amazing! I remember seeing many of these when I visited Jamaica last year and found myself drifting into dreams of living in the Caribbean! But then I asked myself — why are such lovely properties sitting there unsold? Have they been built in the right place, are they built to a decent quality, or are there just too many of them for the level of demand?

So perhaps a new build is a better option because you know exactly what you’re getting and there are usually no nasty surprises about size, blocked views or how close the neighbours are. Also, they are built to the latest building standards, and usually come with a ten-year guarantee. However, according to AIPP, in countries such as Italy fitted kitchens aren’t included in the price.

When starting your search, you might find yourself overwhelmed because there is so much information on the internet, including well-known property portals that have overseas sections, including Rightmove, Findaproperty, Propertyfinder and Primelocation. Developers often market new build properties to UK buyers through the press or their own websites and you could also visit shows such as A Place in the Sun Live and The International Property Show or visit local estate agents while abroad. But do be cautious about the schemes that offer more affordable alternatives but use aggressive selling practices and schemes, for example, timeshares, because many of these haven’t delivered as promised and have left many  people out of pocket.

If you decide that buying is the right decision for you, then it may be best to use professional agents and developers, which will reduce the risk of paying too much or being taken advantage of.  Do not be embarrassed of asking lots of questions, because buying anywhere is a big deal and involves your hard-earned money. Remember there is no such thing as “silly” questions! According to Which.co.uk, you should focus your questions on the company itself, not the properties for sale. Dig around for details on the founders of the company and their track record. Look at client testimonials and make sure you find out in detail exactly what service they offer. Ask for details on their service in writing, preferably in the form of some type of ‘Terms of Business’.
Finally, don’t forget about tax implications when buying abroad! If you decide to sell, you will need to pay Capital Gains Tax but this may be reduced or waived depending on when you sell, so do consult a qualified accountant about this. Inheritance Tax may also be payable by your heirs, but this is not the case in all countries, for example, Italy. You will need to pay local council tax and you may also be liable to a VAT type tax on new-builds – in France it is 20 per cent.